In my journey to create an Accessible Mega-Dungeon with a focus on roleplay, I have to create a lot of rooms.
365 rooms to be precise.
Creating a diverse collection of rooms had me worried that I would struggle to invent enough unique ideas. However, as I delved into the task, I found that I actually enjoyed the challenge. In this blog post, I’d like to share some examples of how I create initial ideas prior to designing a room’s specific structure. Seeds to later nourish with imagination. These examples are from the Dockside District, which I’ll begin working on in April 2023.
Located in the Dockside District, this location is a collection of taverns that have undergone significant changes since the city was abandoned. Each ‘room’ in this location is a different tavern. Below are two examples from the seven taverns I’ve outlined. Taverns are featured in fantasy TTRPG’s as a gathering place, to meet those who you would likely not encounter otherwise. My intention with these taverns is to showcase the ways in which the city’s residents have reacted to the city’s abandonment.
Will the strange lights of the cozy ‘Rusty Anchor‘ lure your adventurers in? This once homely tavern has become the ritual chamber of a cult. Game Masters will be rolling on tables to figure out just who it is they’re worshipping and what their ritual is trying to achieve.
The spacious ‘Inn & Out Burgher‘ is the new home of city residents surviving the aftermath, under the paranoia of Lord Amadeus Drettzmann. Boarded windows and sentries on the roof create an unwelcoming and intimidating facade, but if adventurers dare to approach it could provide a safe haven to weary travellers.
A grand ship named ‘The Fortune‘, beached on the docks, each room is a different section of the ship, presenting different obstacles. This place presents a classic dungeon, with the promise of reward on an abandoned merchant ship. The Fortune holds many riches, but the dangers within it could destroy the entire ship and render it’s treasures lost to the depths of the docks.
The Fortune’s Gun Deck is filled with blackpowder and the smallest spark could detonate a catastrophic explosion. Bound to the Gun Deck by a curse is Benjamin “Bang” Brotverst, a now undead deckhand. Bang believes the Sea God(s) has/have bound him to this place and will ask anyone to help. Bang will task anyone brave enough to take some of the blackpowder to the top of the Sea Tower and perform a ritual to appease the Sea God(s). If your game does not have a Sea God(s), there is a table of Sea God names to roll on and a table of rituals to free Bang. For Game Masters looking to face their players with combat, the Gun Deck provides the perfect opportunity to challenge adventurers, while imposing the restriction of “No flames!”
The Fortune’s Hold is partially flooded, bringing waist-high water for an Elf or Human, neck-high water for a Dwarf or Halfling. Pitch black, it still holds the crates of valuables it was once transporting. It will take time and energy to investigate the cargo, but something lurks beneath the water. Attracted by movement in the water, black tentacles will creep, writhe, latch, constrict and drown anything that dares disturb it. The tentalces will begin to pull and tear at the hold, giving adventurers 2d6 rounds to gather what they can and escape, while fending off the dreaded tentacles, before the hold begins collapsing and all within is lost.
Creating Room Ideas
I have three steps to creating the initial ideas for rooms.
- Step 1: Determine the location and it’s purpose. Not just the Location’s purpose in the world, but what is it’s purpose to the Players? Is it filled with riches, intrigue, excitement? What will draw them in? After all the world can be realistic, but if it’s not engaging for Players it may as well not be there.
- Step 2: How do the rooms play into that purpose? Both in terms of how do they improve the purpose for players and make sense in the purpose of the location?
- Step 3: With the basics established, I write down a bunch of stuff, mostly gibberish. Then I pick out what seems cool or makes sense and then piece it back together. It’s how I plan my games: write down way too much and then filter it down. It’s how I write these blogs too.
Before getting into filling rooms with Non-Player Characters (NPC’s), by fleshing out some of the NPC’s detailed above, in the next blog I will instead share some examples of rooms I’ve created, to give an understanding of what my intended design outcome is.